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Like so many of you, the members of Orange County Grantmakers have spent the past months working our way through the immense challenges facing our nation. The impacts of COVID-19 on the nonprofit sector have forced philanthropy to craft better approaches for supporting our community, serving and assisting those who support the most vulnerable among us. Following the events of the past week, we once again reflect on what it means to be in philanthropic service with an equity lens. As an organization, we have spent the last year and a half exploring this concept – how it is defined, reacted to, and applied to grantmaking decisions that affect each member organization.

The truth and reality is that the discussion of equity is not enough.

Let us be clear: Orange County Grantmakers condemns racism and inequity in all its forms. We recognize the trauma that violence and discrimination have wrought on our community, especially in African American and other communities of color. We condemn the actions that took the life of George Floyd and stand with communities calling for justice.  

Society is at a critical juncture – community, business, and government leaders must not only speak up about systematic inequity and racism, but also take action. As an entire community, we must continue to educate ourselves and understand the history of racism that has become engrained in our societal fabric through policies and cultural norms. From here, OCG pledges to not only look deeply at the systematic inequities that have led us to the challenges of today, but also work together to design an actionable strategy for philanthropy with the aim of equity. 

The conversation happening around racial injustice is an opportunity for each of us to think deeply about what we must do to combat deeply ingrained biases that manifest in actions, policies, laws, and ourselves. We invite our community to join us in having the tough conversation to struggle together in order to create a brighter future.  Together we must embrace diversity and work towards a just and equitable community, informed by the guiding lights of justice and love.

Orange County Grantmakers

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Internship Reflection

By Avery Huffer As my time with the Orange County Grantmakers comes to a close, I’ve had the chance to really reflect on my experience

How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.